A reflection for the 31st January 2021
Presentation of Jesus
in the Temple'

Listen Here
Offered for Sunday 31st January 2021


Stephen

Reflections Script

Presentation of Jesus
in the Temple

January 31st 2021


In a recent episode of the Saturday
night light entertainment programme
'The Wheel' a question revolved around
what parts of the nativity story
are actually found in the Bible!

There were audible gasps
from the contestants and audience
when they found only one of
the four possible responses was
actually to be found in scripture!

The traditions of a donkey,
shepherds and sheep,
and the number of wise men
have among other embellishments
obscured how few facts we have
around the nativity narratives.

It's the Victorians who have
given us our 'Traditional Nativity'
making the story all
very nice and neat!

However, reworking a quote from
John Ford's classic Western;
'Who Shot Liberty Valance';
'When the facts are not there
embellish them, promote them
and eventually they will
be seen as truth!'

Unfortunately, when the
embellishments win it is difficult
to challenge and we miss out on some
real gems of truth to be found!

This is true with the
'Presentation of Jesus
in the Temple' a part of the
'Nativity Narrative'
which gets lost even though
chronologically to complete
Marys ritual putrefaction
laid down in the Law
the event happens within
forty days of Christ's birth.

More importantly,
for the first time,
Jesus is recognized as the Messiah
and the man who recognizes
him is Simeon,
a devout Jew who has for many
years been waiting for the
saviour of his people.

As soon as he sets eyes
on Jesus, Simeon knows
Jesus is the saviour,
the Messiah.

Our thoughts today revolve
around the characters of
'Simeon and Anna' a real
hidden gem from the
riches of scripture.


Let us Pray


A prayer from
'The Church of South India'

Lord Jesus Christ,
as a child you were presented
in the Temple and received
with joy by Simeon and Anna
as Redeemer of Israel:
mercifully grant that we
like them, may be guided
by the Holy Spirit to
acknowledge and love you
until the end of our lives.
Amen


Address


Before we look at what we can
learn from this jewel from
Scripture we need to know
something of the background
to the narrative and three
important ceremonies.

Firstly, with what seems to be
a strange place to start
but to keep things in context!

Every Jewish boy was circumcised
on the eighth day after his birth.
So sacred a ceremony it could be
carried out even on a Sabbath
when the law forbade almost
every other act which was not
absolutely essential;
and on that day a boy
receives his name.

Secondly, according to the
Law of Moses,
if the baby is a firstborn son
born to a Jewish mother
through natural means,
the ceremony of
'The Redemption of the
Firstborn Son'
is conducted on the thirtieth
day of his birth.

Here, the father of the child
takes him to a descendant
of the hereditary family
of priests and "Redeems" him
from the obligation to become
a priest by making a payment of
five silver shekels,
but the priest had the
discretion to reduce the payment.

Finally 'The Purification after
Childbirth', when a woman had
borne a child and if it was a boy,
she was unclean for forty days,
if it was a girl, for eighty days.

She could go about her household
and daily business but she
could not enter the Temple or
share in any religious
ceremony see Leviticus 12.

The offering of the two pigeons
instead of the lamb
and the pigeon was
technically called;
'The Offering of the Poor'.

It was the offering of the poor
which Mary brought.
Again we see it was into an
ordinary home Jesus was born.
a home where there were no luxuries,
a home where every penny
had to be looked at twice,
a home where the members of the
family knew all about the
difficulties of making a
living and the haunting
insecurity of life.

These three ceremonies are
strange old ceremonies;
but all three have the
conviction a child is a
gift of God,
and there was no Jew
who did not regard his nation
as the chosen people of God
and by far the greater number
of them believed because the
Jews were the chosen people
they were bound someday
to become masters of the
world and lords of
all the nations.

To bring in that day some
believed a great,
celestial champion would
descend upon the earth;
some believed there would
arise another 'King David's Line'
and that all the old glories
would revive;
some believed God himself
would break directly into
history by supernatural means.

But in absolute contrast
to all these; there were some
few people who were known as
'The Quiet in the Land'.

They had no dreams of violence
and of power and of armies
with banners;
they believed in a life of
constant prayer and
quiet watchfulness until
God should come.

All their lives they waited
quietly and patiently upon God.
Simeon was like that;
in prayer, in worship,
in humble and faithful expectation
he was waiting for the day
when God would comfort his people.

God had promised him through
the Holy Spirit that his life
would not end before he had seen
God's own 'Anointed King'.

In the baby Jesus he recognized
his Kingship and was
over the moon;'
Now he was ready to
depart in peace'.

In Luke 2: 34 Simeon
gives a kind of summary of
the work and fate of Jesus.

Firstly, Jesus will be the
cause whereby many will fall.
This is a strange and a hard
saying but it's true.

It's not so much God who judges
a person;
A person judges themselves;
and their judgement is their
reaction to Jesus.

There is a great refusal
just as there is a great acceptance.

Secondly, Jesus will be the
cause whereby many will rise.
It's the very hand of Jesus
which lifts us out of the
old life and into a new life;
out of the sin into
the goodness;
out of the shame
into the glory.

Thirdly, Jesus will meet
with much opposition.
Towards Jesus Christ there
can be no neutrality.
We either surrender to him
or are at war with him.

It's the tragedy of life our
pride often keeps us from
making that surrender
which leads to victory.

Anna, too, was one of the
'Quiet in the Land'.
The narrative tells us little
about her except what these
verses tell!

However Luke has drawn us a
complete character sketch.
Firstly, Anna was a widow
who had known sorrow but
had not grown bitter!

Sorrow can do one of two
things to us!
It can make us hard, bitter,
resentful, rebellious
against God.
Or it can make us kinder,
softer, more sympathetic.

Secondly, Anna was eighty-four
years of age, and she never
ceased to hope.
Age can take away the bloom
and the strength of our bodies;
but age can do worse;
the years can take away the
life of our hearts until
the hopes we once cherished
die and we become dully
content and grimly resigned
to things as they are.
again it all depends on how
we think of God.

If we think of him as distant
and detached we may well despair;
but if we think of him as
intimately connected with life,
as having his hand on the helm,
we too will be sure that
the best is yet to come
and the years will never
kill our hope.

What then can we learn from Anna?
Firstly, Anna never ceased
to worship!
She spent her life in God's
house with God's people.

God gave us his Church to be
our mother in faith.
We rob ourselves of a
priceless treasure when we
neglect to be one with
his worshipping people.

Secondly, Anna never
ceased to pray!
Public worship is great;
but private worship
is also great.
As someone has truly said,
"They pray best together
who first pray alone."

The years had left Anna
without bitterness and in
unshakable hope because
day by day she kept her contact
with him who is the source
of strength and in whose strength
our weakness is made perfect.

Simeon and Anna were therefore;
Patient, Faithful, Prayerful,
Worshipful and never lost
their sense of Expectancy!

First Century Jewish world was
pregnant with expectation
for a messiah, a deliverer,
they needed God to intervene.

Are we the above,
are we pregnant with
expectation of how God
through Christ and in the
power of the Holy Spirit
is going to work especially
in these very challenging
and fearful times?

Are we like Simeon and Anna
'Quiet in the Land'


Our Blessing


Lord God,
you kept faith with
Simeon and Anna,
and showed them
the infant King.
Give us grace to put all
our trust in your promises,
and the patience to wait
for your fulfilment;
Let us be from this day
'Quiet in the Land'
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

And the blessing....


group